This is a list of some of the lesser known linguistic phenomena and
devices used in English writing. You actually know what most of these are,
you just didn't know what they were called. The list doesn't include the
well-known devices (like synonym or metaphor). I've also
left out extremely rare or poetic devices (like hypallage) and
terms referring to common linguistic errors (like anacoluthon),
although the line between device and error is sometimes a blurry one.
The list does include some interesting linguistic phenomena that
account for word formation, etc.
FOWLER, HENRY W. (1984). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: Second Edition (revised by Sir Ernest Gowers). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
MILLER, GEORGE A., ed. (1990). "WordNet: An On-Line Lexical Database". International Journal of Lexicography 3:4.
STEIN, JESS, ed. (1983). The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Random House.
Aaron J. Dinkin (who did learn many of these in High School).
Disclaimer: The author of this list shall not be held
responsible for any injury (physical, emotional or financial) that
may result from attempting to use these devices.
- The loss of an initial segment of a word.
- special from especial; cute from acute
- The loss of a final segment of a word.
- curio from curiosity; cinema from cinematograph
- Significant breaking off so that the hearer must supply the unsaid words.
- "If your father finds out..."
- The pronouncing of two successive vowels as separate sounds.
- A form of tmesis in which the compound is
separated at an inappropriate or unlikely position.
- a whole nother story
- The suppression of a letter or syllable.
- there's from there is
- The omission from a sentence of words needed to complete the construction
- "I gave John a book and Mary a ring." from
- "I gave John a book and [I gave] Mary a ring."
- The introduction of a new word into the language from the names of
people with whom the things or practices they stand for were associated.
- boycott from Capt. Charles Cunningham Boycott;
- mesmerize from F. A. Mesmer
- The substitution of conjunction for subordination in expressing a
- try and do better instead of try to do better
- A concept that has another concept as a part (see also
- door is a holonym of knob
- A word whose meaning denotes a superordinate (see also
- animal is a hypernym of dog
- Use of pet names, nursery words, diminutives, etc.
- comfy for comfortable; undies for underwear
- A word whose meaning denotes a subordinate (see also
- dog is a hyponym of animal
- A usually poetic device in which a common noun is replaced by a
more colourful compound.
- swan-road for ocean; cow house for barn
- A kind of meiosis where the understatement
is achieved by substituting an opposite and negating it.
- "She was not disappointed by the news" instead of
- "She was thrilled by the news."
- The use of understatement to enhance the impression on the hearer.
- "The lottery winner was just a little excited."
- A concept that is a part of another concept (see also
- knob is a meronym of door
- Referring to a concept by an attribute of it (see also
- the crown referring to a monarch.
- Puns, plays on words, etc. based on similarity between different words
or different senses of the same word.
- "The cellist exhibited bass emotions."
- "The critics fawned over Disney's Bambi."
- Roundabout wording.
- the person to whom I am engaged instead of my fiancée
- The use of more words than necessary to give the sense intended.
- "It was unanimously agreed upon by everyone."
- A figure by which an opponent's objections are anticipated and answered
- A figure in which a single word appears to be in the same relationship
to two others, but must be understood in a different sense with each of its
pair (see also zeugma).
- "I'm leaving for greener pastures and ten days."
- The shortening of a word by omitting a middle segment.
- symbology instead of symbolology
- Referring to a concept by a part of it (see also
- "All of the big names in the field were there."
- Separation of the parts of a compound word by insertion of another word
- A syllepsis in which the single word
fails to give meaning to one of its pair.
- "She greeted him with arms and expectations wide."
(last update April 14, 1996)
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